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Monday, 31 May 2010

How they influence me

Losing the Plot - Midland Report BBC 2000
Nick Booth has been a great influence. His documentary - Losing the Plot - was aired on the BBC in the early days of our campaign in Handsworth for the Victoria Jubilee Allotments (VJA) - a local action to save green space from building development that began in 1999 and continues. A planning gain agreement - S106A - was negotiated on the VJA in 2003 and formally permitted by Birmingham City Council in 2004 - N/01514/03/FUL. It allowed the applicant - at that time Westbury Homes - to build houses on a third of the site in return for playing fields and 80 new allotment plots. I recall feeling that after a long fight we'd lost - but the new VJA when opened will I've been told, be the largest new municipal allotments site opened in the UK since the second world war.
Plots on the VJA site were supposed to become available in 2008, but did not, then 2009 and then this year. Recession has been the excuse as well as legal complications surrounding the handing over of the land to the ownership of Birmingham City Council. After continued delays and promises the council allotments officer - Adrian Stagg - told us, a few weeks ago, that plots will be available under licence from the current developer - Persimmon Homes - this June.
In the film the VJA case arises at 03.28, 07.14, 15.15 and 17.44. Nick Booth moved from a successful career in broadcasting shortly after making this documentary about allotments - the basis for our continued friendship - and has now become a significant presence on the internet as a freelance journalist, mentor and campaigner for the spread of grassroot politics (see also Be Vocal, Help Me Investigate and Nick's page on Twitter)
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On a chill rainy Saturday morning we were litter-picking in Black Patch Park and nearby streets. Most litter was the usual casually discarded beverage bottles, plastic bags, crisp and sweet wrappers. There was the detritus of more organised activity - bedsteads, guttering, plastic strippings from filched copper wire strewn over a heap of crystallised roofing material. I'm hesitant, often sceptical about 'compacts', 'partnerships', 'empowerment of communities', 'communities of practice' - the argot of enabling networks - but there were quite a set of us working together - Friends of Black Patch Park, two PCSOs, Zaida from Midland Heart who organised food in the meeting room of the houses they manage off Murdock Road next to the park, some residents of those homes with whom, until now, we've never made successful contact and a few from Sandwell Council's environmental services. I brought Oscar along, happily sitting in the plastic cycle pannier until I could let him rove. Carl Murphy, freelance photographer, came to get pics for stories that may appear in local papers and Midland Heart's glossies.
Litter-picking: Murdock Road near Black Patch Park
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Another influence. My stepfather's biographer is the writer and journalist Paul Peacock. Since he wrote about Jack we've stayed in touch. Paul has continued a sinuous career, becoming dexterous with the grammar of the blogosphere, popularising issues close to my and many other's hearts and minds.
As well as authoring books, Paul and Diana Peacock, , have been running City Cottage on the web, offering guidance on cooking, farming, self-sufficiency, including butchery, bee-keeping, smoking and curing, and sausage making - a portal to The Internet Gardener, the Mirror Gardening section, and Home Farmer, linked and accompanied by pithy podcasts streamed by Grow Your Own Channel with connection to allotments and the low-impact living initiative. I subscribe to Paul and Diana's circular:
We have moved house and right in the middle of it we fancied something homely: cottage pie .You never know how stressful moving house is - completely tiring, disabling, disorientating but completely wonderful. The vinegar factory we used to look at has been replaced by the Pennines and the factory, the tenth most polluting factory in the UK, has been replaced by hundreds of tradesmen and artisans, lovely bakers, butchers by the score. Where we used to live there was only one proper butchers serving around 30 000 people - the rest were supermarkets. Here there are four in the village, serving only around 5000 people. Bliss!
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Alan who has a slightly deranged Milligan way with words, sends his latest report with photo on the state of the external stairs-balcony project in Ano Korakiana - what he calls the Simlim pass:
I had just finished the lower landing of the Simlim pass and was working around the upper level when the black and white cater-ban insurgence was detected and was making its way down the Simlim pass. Before I could set up reinforcements, it had struck a devastating attack on the lower landing base with some collateral damage to the steps above them making its escape - all most cat-like - into the flowers. Workers sent in to make good the damage before nightfall. I had to return to base camp for rest and supplies to body, hoping that the cater-ban won't make a night time raid! Kids and cats on working backs no room to slack.
It's nice to see the mouldings Alan's putting on the edge of each step and how much of the little window still shows, but regarding the 'cater-ban insurgence' I'm wondering it there's something in the water of Corfu. There was another bloke - Edward something who spent time there....and became quite quare...
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The Mayors of Corfu, Paxos and the Community Council of Diapontia - the north western islands - have written to the Prime Minister opposing being united, under the Kallicrates Plan,into one municipality. Back in March Ioannis Bravis made a case for three new authorities - one in the north west including the Diapontian Islands, a second in the south up to Benitses and Lake Korission, with a third key council containing the biggest concentration of settlements and economic drivers covering an area from Kassiopi and the north west down the east coast to Benitses over to Lake Korission and back up the Ropa Valley to Paleokastritsa centred on Corfu Town. Papandreou's one council including all Corfu plus Paxos up to Diapontian Erikoussa will - suggests the latest letter - dilute the potential of the 'concentrated' area suggested by Ioannis Bravi, and fail to provide the local services and local focus needed to develop the special concerns of the smaller, more distant, less populated and unique smaller islands. It's ironical that by including Paxos with Corfu and its satellite islands to the north west, the Kallicrates proposal for the area matches the inflammatory proposal of Lord High Commissioner Sir John Young during the latter years of the British Protectorate for Britain to colonise Paxos and Corfu, ceding the remaining Ionian islands to the Greek kingdom.
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Jim Potts is concerned about the future of cycle lanes on Corfu.
...after listening to Greek friends and watching tonight's Logos-Anti logos programme on the Corfu TV Channel, I came to realise that the project had not been properly planned, but was submitted to the Municipal Council for comment and possible amendment only 24 hours before the cut off date for submission to the European Union. Will all this funding go to waste? Was the initial study done by people with sufficient experience? (Corfu blues 31 May 2010)
Elias Valaris wrote an op-ed on cycling in Corfu - not just recreational cycling - in Corfu Press (Greek version - Να κερδίσουμε το στοίχημα της μετακίνησης με ποδήλατο) on 19 May.
Το διασκεδαστικό βέβαια, είναι ότι πλέον ψάχνουμε τρόπους και ευκαιρίες όλοι στην εφημερίδα μας να χρησιμοποιήσουμε περισσότερο τα ποδήλατά μας κι αυτό μπορώ να σας πω ότι εκτός από αναζωογονητικό μας προσφέρει και μια νέα επαφή φιλίας μεταξύ φίλων και συναδέλφων.
The fun, of course, is that now we are looking ways and opportunities for everyone in our newspaper to use more of our bikes...I can tell you that as well as being healthy, cycling offers new contact between friends and colleagues. Besides liberating the bicycle, we are assured of finding a different Corfu hidden...beneath the routine of everyday life.
Celebrating the bicycle in this way, still seems bizarre to many. Despite frustrations and costs, most people embrace cars as essential; in many cases, as objects of desire; part of the aspirational vector of the times - especially among those whose parents, and certainly grandparents had no choice but to walk, ride bicycles and even donkeys. The arrival of cyclists with attitude; cyclists who actually want to cycle instead of driving, who in some cases have divorced their car is shocking and irritating...and when these cyclists start campaigning for the removal of cars from many streets, from whole areas of the city and for more and more restrictions on those things that made cars a means of tapping into unprecedented independence and freedom, taking over the highway, lobbying for speed limits, traffic calming and cycle lanes....well, no wonder drivers begin to feel that even behind the wheel of 2000 kilos of metal they've somehow become victims. Before year-round cycling can increase in popularity, there's a universe of embedded values fed by sophisticated marketing to be unpicked. It will take a long time, even with escalating fuel prices, for the majority to prise themselves from their beloved cars. Physical changes in road design seem like impositions in an autodependent world.
Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia. H.G. Wells
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A very public admission of corruption reported in a Kathimerini's editorial today: 'Into Corruption's Labyrinth' - a confession to a Parliamentary Select Committee by a close colleague of ex-Transport Minister Tasos Mantelis that his Minister took money from Siemens as a bribe - formally described as election sponsorship - to award them a major IT contract in 1997 while Mantelis was a member of Costas Simitis’s PASOK government. The bribe money was partly used, to fund Mantelis' son's studies at Columbia University - see 'the horror'- how corruption works. Linda remarked of Papandreou "He really is trying to sort out this problem' This after I'd told her about Corfu MP Angela Gerekou's resignation over her entertainer husband's falsified tax claims

1 comment:

  1. great to see the allotments being used to full use..uplands allotments handsworth, the biggest in europe.
    gerard kirwan.


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Simon Baddeley